RIM Vodafone Outage, Downgrade Sends Share Price Tumbling (UPDATE)

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RIM OUTAGE VODAFONE DOWNGRADE
Shares of Research in Motion fell after BlackBerry users in Europe, Middle East and Africa were affected by a service outage and an analyst downgraded its stock. (AP Photo/dapd, Berthold Stadler) | AP

TORONTO — Shares in Research In Motion bounced back Friday after U.K.-based carrier Vodaphone experienced technical problems that disrupted BlackBerry service to customers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Shares were up almost 10 per cent, or $1.16, to $12.95 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Earlier Friday, shares in Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) traded at a low of $11.48. The stock has traded between $6.10 and $18.23 over the past year.

Vodaphone PLC said the issue was caused by a router error and that service was being restored.

"We apologize to customers for any inconvenience caused and we will provide updates as necessary,'' Vodaphone said in an emailed statement.

RIM said it was working with Vodaphone to resolve the issue.

"All BlackBerry services are operating normally, but we are aware that a wider Vodafone service issue is impacting some of our BlackBerry customers in Europe, Middle East and Africa,'' RIM said.

The disruption, while relatively minor in terms of the BlackBerry global subscriber base, came as RIM works to improve its image and launch the BlackBerry 10 generation of smartphones.

The Waterloo, Ont., smartphone maker has had several outages in the last couple of years, including one in October 2011 that knocked out service for millions of users.

RIM hasn't disclosed when the BlackBerry 10 smartphones will hit shelves or how much they will cost, but is scheduled to unveil the new devices on Jan. 30 in New York.

The BlackBerry 10 is seen as a make-or-break product for Research In Motion, which has lost significant market share to Apple's iPhone and devices using the Android operating system, particularly smartphones and tablets from Samsung.

BMO Capital Markets lowered its price target for RIM stock to US$9 from US$12 on Thursday, based on revised earnings estimates for the coming year and 2014 following a visit to the Consumer Electronics Show in Los Vegas.

"We believe the stock will be driven by the reception and results of BB10 products over the next few months, which we don't expect to be positive,'' BMO analyst Tim Long wrote in a research note.

"Over the intermediate term, we believe falling service revenues may be more negative for the shares.''

The company, which released better-than-expected results in December, disclosed during its conference call that it would change the pricing strategy for its services _ causing several analysts to lower their earnings estimates for RIM.

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